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The Tolkien Trail's first movie review
Benjamin Milder

I had the opportunity to go to the North American premiere of the most anticipated film of all time. The excitement was palpable sitting in the darkened theater, a week before general release, with Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, and other cast members in the audience. To sum it up: "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" is a triumph of cinema and art which does justice to Tolkien's work.

I came to the movie with an open mind - I hadn't read the books in over a year, and had intentionally avoided most major movie "spoilers." That being said, I felt that the movie captured the spirit of the story without hanging on every word from the text. "Harry Potter" was an enjoyable experience, but it required (and assumed) prior familiarity to fully understand and appreciate it. Peter Jackson's LotR, on the other hand, is more than just an excellent copy of literature: it stands by itself as a wholly separate work.

Omissions of beloved scenes are hardly noticed with the quick pace of the story. The transition from the Shire to Bree is smooth. Certainly Tom Bombadil would have been a joy to see onscreen, but the episode would have tacked on another half hour to an already very long movie and perhaps tested the patience of nonfans. Yet even at three hours, the time breezes past.

Middle-earth has truly been brought to life. New Zealand's natural beauty provides ideal landscapes. The idyllic Shire is shown just as we had all imagined. The grotesque orcs and Balrog are terrifying. The evil atmosphere of Moria, Isengard, and Mordor is chilling, leaving the viewer anxious for a more extended glimpse into the Land of Shadow.

Another admirable aspect of the film is that even with epic battles and CG monsters, appropriate time is allotted to develop the major characters, the story's heart and soul. Frodo's friendship with Sam is given due prominence, and Ian McKellen's Gandalf is superb. A small gripe of mine is that the minor characters were not given the individuality that they deserved: by the end, I was still unsure over which Hobbit was Merry and which was Pippin; and Legolas and Gimli were peripheral figures. However, given that their friendship is more a focus in The Two Towers, this is not a big problem.

The film is destined to become a classic (and gross hundreds of millions of dollars in the process!). After such a long wait, the success is a satisfying relief. I will undoubtedly return to see it again many times, and I've already started counting the days until December 2002!

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New York Premiere Report
(written a few hours after the movie ended)

I've just returned from the NY Premiere of LotR. The movie was phenomenal. My full review will come later (it's almost 1 am here, and I have school tomorrow followed by a lengthy band rehearsal), but I wanted to post a preliminary report on the premiere.

It was held in the spacious Ziegfeld Theatre. The average attendees sat in either the front or the back, with the center area reserved for the VIPs. The popcorn and soda were free.

New Line executives made some opening remarks, then turned over the mike to the "diminutive Kiwi genius," Peter Jackson himself, who introduced New York Governor Pataki.

Next, selected cast members in attendance came to the front: Elijah Wood, Liv Tyler, John Rhys-Davies, Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Billy Boyd, and Sean Bean.

There were calls of "Frodo Lives" and "Gandalf for President" as the lights dimmed. Hearty applause greeted the introduction of major characters. The audience members were clearly enjoying themselves.

Aftewards, gift bags were distributed containing an action figure, a cap, a bookmark, a FotR book, and a commemorative glass.

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